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MEMOIR OF THOMAS MOORE, ESQ.
He whom nature taught
To tune his lyre and soul to pleasure;
Who gave to love his fondest measure.'
THOMAS MOORE, ESQ. whose portrait embellishes the present number, is one of those whose lives present few events differing from the ordinary course of persons in private stations. It has been often remarked, that the lives of scholars possess little interest, and less variety; all that can be done, in general, is to mark the "noiseless tenor of their way" through the world, and to chronicle their works. The immortality of a poet is not of a personal nature: his reputation is an abstract quality—at least in these peaceful times-and a modern author is a mere eidolon. The customs which prevailed when Button's and Will's were show-rooms, to which curious persons resorted a century ago, to see the literary lions of the town, are gone; and the persons of most of our eminent modern authors are only known to their intimate acquaintances, and their booksellers.
Mr. Moore has no claim to family distinction, being descended from parents of a rank no more illustrious than those who gave birth to Shakespeare, Milton, and others of the brightest names which adorn the history of our literature. He bad, we believe, no other patrimony than that bestowed on him by Nature, who has been a most bountiful mother to him. His father was a tradesman of great respectability in the city of Dublin, where the subject of this memoir was born on the 28th of May, 1780. The foundation of his education was laid at a private school in the place of his birth, and completed at Trinity College, in the same city, where he went through the usual course of classical study with great credit. During the time he was in college, the political divisions of the country ran high; and, as is well known, penetrated the walls of the metropolitan seminary of learning. Mr. Moore here distinguished himself by an eloquent and vigorous assertion of the principles of liberty, which he applied to the then existing state of things with a warmth natural to his inexperience and the immaturity of his judgment. The heavy penalty which fell upon some of his companions, for the expression of their opinions upon the same subject, did not reach him; and he quitted college, bearing with him the respect which his temper, no less than his acquirements, had created for him in all who were of his acquaintance.
He repaired to London, where he entered himself of the Middle Temple, intending to pursue the study of the law. He was introduced to some of the best society in town, and his winning manners made him a universal favourite. In the year 1800 he published his translation of Anacreon; which has the deserved reputation of being the best English version of the Teian bard, though by no means the best translation. The reputaVOL. I. March, 1823. Br. Mag,
tion which this procured him, and, we believe, the prospects which the promises of his exalted friends now held out to him, turned his attention from the profession he had chosen, and he committed himself to the exercise of his talents as a means of support. It happens in his instance, as the reverse happens to thousands who pursue a similar course, that he could not have chosen a more secure or honorable mode of life, and, at the same time, one so congenial to his taste and habits. Shortly afterwards he published a volume of poems under the name of a Mr. Little, deceased, by which sobriquet he made an allusion to his stature, much more allowable in himself than any other person. These poems are amatory, and of the warmest description; their character may be shortly given-Every body abuses them, and every body reads them, though every body will not confess it. Whether they ought to have been published is the question still sub judice; but that they are the best of their kind, in our language, no one can deny. In 1803 the phantom which had been conjured up by his hopes of patronage seemed to be within his grasp: he was appointed Registrar of the Admiralty in the Island of Bermuda, and made a voyage to that island, where he found not only that the duties were altogether discordant to his inclinations, but that the remuneration was entirely insignificant. He soon made an arrangement with a person in the island, by which he was to receive one half of the proceeds, his agent performing the duty, and he (Mr. Moore) continuing responsible to the government for the faithful discharge of the office. His journey, though not made, as he has said, from motives of curiosity, was only advantageous to him in the gratification of curiosity. He went to America, and staid a short time at New York. He has given some slight account of his journey there in the Odes and Epistles which he published upon his return. It must be confessed that he is sufficiently severe upon the transatlantic Repub licans, but we believe he is not less just. We can readily conceive that, with the refinement of mind which he possesses, and which is one of the results of a form of government in which a spirit of aristocracy is so deeply mingled as in that of our own country, he would be disgusted with the severity and rudeness of any republic, and particularly with that of America.
While so many of his unintellectual countrymen have carried off ladies of family and fortune by no other recommendations than breadth of shoulders and native impudence, it has been often wondered that Mr. Moore has not made his fortune by marriage. The caressed poet of the sex, as he was and is, the enfant gate of ladies of fashion, he might, if a female parliament had existed, have passed an aet for the allowance of polygamy, and have married as many of the prettiest women in the country as he chose. But, jesting apart, we believe that the independence of his temper directed his choice in this, as it has done in mauy other actions of his life, and induced him to prefer the enjoyment of his own free inclination to the gilded chains of opulent thraldom. He married a Miss Dyke, who had beauty enough, many accomplishments, and much good sense. In the bosom of his family, and in a retirement occasionally varied by visits to the metropolis, he passed several of the succeeding years of his life.
He has written many satirical works, which have been published under the name of Thomas Brown the Younger; they display a playfulness, and what the French call esprit, without being positively witty. It is
upon the poem of Lalla Rookh, however, that his fame rests. That is too well known to render any detailed opinion on its merits necessary in this place. It combines that distinct and elegant force of words for which he is so remarkable, with the higher powers of poetry; and may be referred to as the best specimen of his peculiar style, to which the words of Cowley may be well applied:
His candid style, like a clear stream, does glide,
And his bright fancy all the way
Doth, like the sunshine, on it play."
The responsibility which rested upon him in respect of his unprofitable office at Bermuda became a serious inconvenience to him. His agent was a defaulter, and he was called upon to pay a much larger sum of money than he could immediately command. Poets are never rich; but Mr. Moore, though he was not rich, had never been extravagant; he withdrew himself from England until he had by his own exertions arranged the deficiency of his agent, and has now been long returned to that tranquillity of which every one must regret he was ever deprived.
He possessed for many years the friendship of the late Mr. Sheridan, upon whose death he wrote an elegant but strangely exaggerated monody. He has since published that gentleman's Dramatic Works, and is now employed upon his Life. Common fame attributes to Mr. Moore several articles in the Edinburgh Review; but he lacks the necessary portion of gall for a thorough-paced critic.
His Irish Melodies are those of his works upon which he says he must rest his fame; although we are compelled to dissent from his opinion, they are, in their kind, beautiful productions. No man, perhaps, who ever wrote in this language, understood the harmony of syllables so well as Mr. Moore does. This is an inherent faculty-a felicitous organisation-which may be traced as well in his singular musical skill as in his poetry. Without understanding the principles of the science he composes agreeable airs; and we believe that, in his construction of verse, he is rather aided by some modulation of his ear than by any mechanical method of arranging words. His power over the language is perfectly astonishing, and is in no instance more strongly marked than in Tom Crib's Memorial to Congress; where he has made the pestilent slang, which infects and disgraces the present times, subservient to the purposes of poetry-has positively written pure lyrical flash. His last poem, The Loves of the Angels, is, next to Lalla Rookh, in our opinion, the best of his productions. It has encountered the dull abuse of persons whose minds are so impure, or whose perceptions are so blinded by envy, that they see or invent things which have no existence. They discover blasphemy where others find only beauty, and object that this poem, which has an elegant moral application, the more admirable from the skill with which it is veiled, may affect the cause of virtue. If the voice of honesty and truth, and of that numerous part of the community who profess them, were not in favour of the poem, it would move one's indignation to hear the hypocritical cant which has been uttered upon this subject.
To conclude: Mr. Moore has always been, in matters of politics, the advocate of opinions which he considers to be correct; and without saying that we join with him in those opinions, candour compels us to add, he has held them to the injury of his lucrative prospects. In his manners he is mild and agreeable; his conversational powers are of the highest order ; his erudition varied and extensive; his wit sparkling and ready. He
possesses the friendship of many of the most estimable of our countrymen, and commands the respect even of all those opposed to him, whose praise or blame is valuable.
ESSAYS ON PETRARCH. BY UGO FOSCOLO.
THE character of Petrarch is so intimately connected with Italian literature, and so remarkable on account of his "well-sung woes,' "that every thing relating to him possesses considerable interest. tation which Signor Foscolo has gained by his elegant taste and his profound critical skill in the writings of his countrymen, led us to expect that his method of treating the subject would be extremely satisfactory; and the work mentioned at the head of this article has not disappointed those expectations. These essays have been printed before, but not published, only sixteen copies having been thrown off. We do not understand, and still less could we approve of the motive which led to this. If it were not, as it is, the object of this undertaking to simplify the approaches to the literature of the day, and to extend some of its advantages to persons who, from their occupations and other obvious reasons, would not else be enabled to partake of them, still we should feel it a duty to raise our voices against the selfishness and arrogance of printing books for any sixteen individuals. We blame no one personally, for we do not know on whom the blame of this notable contrivance should rest; but we pity and despise the notions of the man who could presume to think that Signor Foscolo's erudition on the subject of the "learned Clerke of Padowe" was to be a fountain shut up, and a book sealed, to all but these sixteen aristocrats, this society of illuminati. In these days, when liberty in all its forms is in the mouths of so many professors, it excites other feelings than that of surprise to find that literary men can think thus upon the freedom of the republic of letters.
The volume is preceded by a dedication to Lady Dacre, who is complimented very justly, but at the same time in most obscure expressions, for the elegance and fidelity of her translations from Petrarch. The work contains four essays: the first on the love of Petrarch; the second on his poetry; the third on his character; and the fourth is a parallel between Dante and Petrarch.
I. In the first the author does little to remove that opinion which we shall not be too bold in asserting is now almost universal: that Petrarch's love for Laura had more of sentiment than of passion; that his union with her was impossible, and scarcely desired by him; but that she was to him the personification of that abstract principle of affection which the human mind requires, and which, if it does not find, it creates. In persons without refinement this feeling degenerates into a base devotion to unworthy objects; but to such a genius as that of Petrarch it is at first an excitement, and is afterwards ennobled by it. The author has the following passage on this part of his essay :
At first Petrarch saw in Laura only the most beautiful of women; one whom he was destined to love, and who inspired and ennobled his talents he coveted glory only as it might secure her esteem and affection, and he hoped to have found happiness on earth. He next discovered in her the form and the virtue of an angel-that his love burnt only to enlighten and purify his heart; to fix his mind; to harmonise those faculties which would otherwise have been a prey to perpetual perturbation; to lift his desires and thoughts towards heaven: and, that